No matter what kind of DIY project you’re doing, nothing is more important to your safety, as well as your chances of success, than knowing the tools that you’re using. When it comes to woodworking, there are all kinds of tools you might end up relying on, but how essential are they really? Here, I’m going to look at all the most common kinds of woodworking tools available and which of them are really worth investing in.
When it comes to cutting wood then saws are going to be the key. Whether you’re cutting lengths of the board, chopping off rougher parts or crosscutting, you need to look at the different saws.
Circular saws are going to have a place in just about every woodworker’s arsenal since they’re designed to rip through wood efficiently with electric power behind them. Learning the different types of blades is crucial for different cutting purposes, as shown by this circular saw guide. Ripping blades are good for cutting along the length of a board or with the grain, while crosscut is better for cutting against the grain.
Jigsaws are another worthwhile investment, especially when it comes to making more detailed and intricate cuts in wood. They are especially important for cutting round corners and none straight edges. I couldn’t live without mine.
Table saws are effective for rip cuts along the length of wood. The table saw was one of my first investments when I started selling furniture and one I absolutely couldn’t live without. I knew this was going to be a saw that I’d use on a regular basis so I invested in a good one like this Dewalt table saw.
However, which saws will best fit your needs will depend on the type of projects you’re doing.
Regardless of whatever type of powered saws you choose you are always going to have a need for a handsaw. They’re good for precision cuts, like jigsaws, but they’re much easier to take on the go or use in different spaces thanks to the fact that they’re light, don’t have any cords or batteries and are completely manual. There are many different types of handsaws, with ripping, crosscut, and combination variants. However, having at least one handsaw on you at all times will make sure that you never run out of cutting ability, even when your other tools run out of power.
One of the most versatile tools at your disposal, there are few things like a good handheld power drill in any woodworker’s workshop. Aside from drilling holes, they can be used with a range of attachments such as a rotary rasp that can grind off the rough edges of the wood.
A cordless drill guide will help you find the most convenient tool that can be used both in and outside the workshop. Screw guns are considered a drilling tool as well and offer some of the best fastenings you will find. However, they’re not essential if you have a good power drill that does the same thing. If you’re trying to manage jobs that require a lot of drilling and screwing then it’s a sound investment to have both a drill driver and a smaller impact driver. This way you can quickly and easily drill pilot holes and screw in with the impact driver.
After you have cut a piece of wood you’re going to need tools to refine it and make and nice finished look, as well as a smooth feeling. Sanding is an essential step for just about any woodworking project and involves using sandpaper to smoothen the surface of a piece of wood. However, sanding by hand isn’t the most efficient way to handle it. Orbital and belt sanders will use electric power to sand much more quickly and thoroughly.
These tools may not always be able to reach more awkward angles and nooks, so you should also consider having a sanding block for when a project requires a little more manual finessing. High-quality sandpaper is crucial too. Cheaper papers will wear more easily, meaning you have to stop and start more often, so try buying branded papers where possible.
The tools mentioned above sand a piece of wood but planes play an important role in cutting them more precisely than sawing tools are able to. Planes using fixed blades that shave away wood fibers, smoothing them to leave flat planes that can then smoothed even more with the help of sanding.
If you’re dealing primarily with pre-prepared lumber, then you might not need planes as much as you need sanding tools. However, when working with any natural kind of wood, planes are going to be an essential tool. They come in a wide variety of types, including rabbet planes, jack planes, block planes, joining planes, and more. Take a look at this plane selection guide to see the advantages and uses of each type.
A hand file
Hand files do the work that planes and sanders do, shaping wood and making it smoother, but are also able to sharpen your woodworking blades and other tool bits. These are effectively long steel shapes with very fine teeth.
They’re relatively cheap and can last a long time providing that you get a good quality one. They do have to be replaced every now and then, as there’s no real way to maintain a hand-file. Most woodworkers have multiple hand files, including a rasp that’s good for removing larger bits of wood, half-round files that work well with curved surfaces and mill files that are well designed for working in tight spaces and for filing different surfaces at obtuse angles.
The right wood
Not so much a tool, in reality, but an essential resource for any woodworking project is the wood that you work with. Choosing the right wood means knowing which species are best-used in different contexts. For instance, pine is a popular choice all around, since it’s a softwood that’s easy to work with, and it’s also relatively cheap and is easy to find in a variety of sizes. However, you can also choose wood types based on other preferences such as finding sustainably sourced woods or woods better suited to handling heavier loads, such as furniture. Do your research and learn the different woods.
Hammers and mallets
Hammers and mallets perform two very different functions and there are multiple types of each. However, both are essential when it comes to constructing projects from different pieces of wood. Hammers will pound pieces into place and can also pry them apart by using the claw end of the tool.
But there are different types of carpentry hammer so make sure you choose the one that fits your needs. Mallets on the other hand are made of wood rather than having a metalhead and are designed to leave softer blows, which make them perfect for use with chisels, and leaves fewer impact marks than hammers. Mallets also tend to have removable heads so you can switch those of different sizes and dimensions at will.
Measuring is perhaps the most important step of any woodworking project. Without accurate measurements, you will never end up with a successful end product. There is a range of measurement tools you need to divine both distance and angle. Squares for instance can help you verify angles and there’s a wide variety of them to be used in different situations.
Tape measures can be easily hooked on the belt and used to measure dimensions from end to end. Other measuring tools include folding rules, yardsticks, and straight edges. For making sure you have a balanced top on furniture, a spirit level might also be recommended but isn’t usually useful for smaller projects.
The work station
There are at least two types of work stations you should have available at all times. The first is a quality workbench. You can make your own or purchase one that you can install. However you get it, some features to look for will include solid construction, made of hardwood with adjustable sizing, have a vice attached to it, be free-standing so you can access it from all angles, and have drawers for storage.
The other work station you will need is a series of sawhorses. These are free-standing four-legged accessories that are designed to balance and support long bits of lumber. You can make your own rigid wood sawhorses or buy ones made of steel, fiberglass and other materials if you see yourself working with lumber that’s much heavier.
Your safety gear
Like all kinds of handiwork, woodworking can be dangerous. As such, investing in the right safety equipment is essential. Safety goggles and gloves will offer some protection against debris, stray wood chips, and accidents with tools. If you’re using power tools, then you need hearing protection, as prolonged exposure to loud noises can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Furthermore, woodworking can result in a lot of sawdust being kicked up into the air, or varnish or paint, all of which is harmful to breathe in. Face masks protect you well enough, but if you’re regularly using chemicals such as paint and varnish then you should get a respirator to be on the safe side.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do woodworking. As such, of all the tools above each can be the correct choice in its own context. The important thing is that you know what kind of projects you’re likely to work on and choose the tools that fit those projects.
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